It is a case that began way back in September 1994, when the City of Boston (“City”) first assigned Boston Municipal Police (“Municipal Police”) to patrol the Boston Housing Authority (“BHA”) housing developments without first bargaining with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (“BPPA”). Now, 16 years later after protracted litigation, the City has finally agreed to pay damages owed to the Boston police officers who should have performed the work. The Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations (“DLR”) this week issued a Stipulated Order which instructs the City to pay $16.5 million to affected officers according to a method agreed to by the parties.
The Order puts an end to a saga that began even before 1994. The BPPA, which represents patrol officers employed by the Boston Police Department (“BPD”), had objected to the creation of another, second-tier police force in the City – the Boston Municipal Police – from the start. But when the City assigned Municipal Police to patrol the BHA developments, the BPPA filed a charge of unfair labor practice with the state labor board, then called the Labor Relations Commission (“Commission”). The charge accused the City of violating G.L. c. 150E, section 10(a)(5) when it subcontracted BPPA work to the Municipal Police without first giving the BPPA notice and an opportunity to bargain. A hearing officer of the LRC upheld the BPPA’s charge after a hearing (at which the BPPA was represented by Sandulli Grace Attorney Susan F. Horwitz) in 1996, and the full Commission affirmed the decision in 2000. See City of Boston, 23 MLC 133 (1996), affirmed by 26 MLC 144 (2000). The City then appealed to the Mass. Appeals Court, where the BPPA, represented by Sandulli Grace Attorney John M. Becker, in 2003 was again successful. See City of Boston v. Labor Relations Commission, 58 Mass. App. Ct. 1102 (2003). Finally, after the Appeals Court decision, the City removed the Municipal Police from the developments. The force was eventually disbanded, with some of its members transferring to the Boston Police Department.
Back in 1996 and 2000, the Labor Relations Commission ruled that the City must: return to the status quo before the violation (and remove the Municipal Police from the developments); make officers whole for any financial losses; and bargain before making any changes. The Commission ordered the City and the BPPA to attempt to determine the damages, but numerous meetings over many years were fruitless, largely because the City took the position that it owed no damages. As a result of this dispute, the parties asked the Commission for help. By 2010, the Labor Relations Commission had become the Division of Labor Relations, and scheduled a series of meetings with the parties. First the parties attempted to mediate a settlement, without success. Then, the DLR held three days of compliance hearings, where the BPPA was represented by Sandulli Grace Attorneys Amy Laura Davidson and John M. Becker, in an effort to establish the amount of damages. It was out of this process that the parties developed a series of stipulations that led to the Stipulated Order issued by the DLR this week.
The Stipulated Order distributes the damages in a fair and equitable manner among current and former members of the BPPA. First, the nine-year damages period is divided into quarters beginning October 1, 1994 and ending September 30, 2003. Then, each person who was an active member of the BPD and a dues (or agency fee) paying member of the BPPA on the first day of each quarter is entitled to a payment for that quarter, up to a maximum 36 quarters. (This means some of those entitled to payments will be retired or promoted into higher ranks.) Then it gets a little complicated. The total amount of damages ($16.5 million) is then divided by the total number of quarters worked by all eligible individuals, for the payment-per-quarter. Every individual will receive the payment-per-quarter for each quarter that he or she is eligible. Because the total number of individuals and quarters has not yet been determined, we don’t yet know the payment-per-quarter, so we can’t yet tell individuals how much they will receive. This will take a little time, but the BPPA and the City hope to have the process substantially completed in the coming months.
Throughout the years, the leadership of the BPPA has never stopped fighting for a fair result to bring back to their members in this litigation. With this week’s Stipulated Order, they’ve reached their goal.